Tech Talk: Guidance, Insights From the ‘Rise’ Experts

Last week’s Rise of the Rest tour stop in Indianapolis was a powerful testament to the continued emergence of central Indiana’s tech and innovation prowess. Before sharing some of the panel insights and a few observations, a little dose of reality must be included.

This was the 31st stop in recent years for AOL co-founder Steve Case and his traveling team. That means a lot of other cities and regions are also upping their games. In other words, we must keep advancing. Plenty in the Midwest and beyond are also pulling out all the stops to attract innovators, entrepreneurs and the jobs that come with their ideas.

Union 525A daylong series of events included a fireside chat at The Union 525 (recall our BizVoice® story earlier this year on the then emerging venue). Case, author/investor J.D. Vance, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai and former U.S. chief technology officer Megan Smith shared these gems, among others:

  • Case referred to ExactTarget as the “type of breakout iconic success that puts cities on the map.” He added that Indianapolis should be proud of what has been accomplished “but the next five to 10 years is the time to really accelerate.”
  • Calling the internet the “great equalizer,” Pai contends: “To me, no issue for the FCC is greater than closing the digital divide.”
  • Giving the example of doctors serving in the surgeon general role, Smith reminds that it’s important to “make sure entrepreneurs are in the room when determining entrepreneurship policy.” (A dictionary entry on that might point to Indiana and the 2017 legislative session).
  • Vance, speaking of the “downstream effects of the start-up economy” and the need for additional talent: “How do we take that person who has been out of the labor force and bridge the gap – marshal the resources that are on the sidelines.”

Case wrote The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future. He notes the first wave was a decade-long effort (with 300 partners) in going from 3% of Americans online an average of one hour a week in 1985 to truly getting America online. The second wave was building out software services with a focus on apps, not partnerships.

“The third wave is integrating the internet in a much more pervasive way. It’s not about software but getting people and companies to integrate. Companies that think they can go it alone will fail. It’s the old proverb: If you want to go quickly, you can go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Asked about lessons they were taking away from their day in Indianapolis, several agreed on the strong culture and passion in the community. Vance added, “Entrepreneurs who had success are reinvesting in the ecosystem. It absolutely makes a difference. It’s not just the money, but the mentoring and the relationships.”

A student in the audience sought their advice for a young entrepreneur …:

Vance: “Don’t think you have to be the person with the idea. Being the fourth, fifth, 12th person in a high-growth company is a good thing.” (Stay tuned for a similar local sentiment in the coming weeks).

Pai: “Seek out people who fascinate you. People are happy to talk with you and share ideas.” (That is certainly the case in Indiana).

Case: “Pick a battle worth fighting. Don’t pick an easy problem. You only live once.” He recalls this comment from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it happens.”

TECH THURSDAY: Scott Dorsey: Business Leader of the Year


EDITOR’S NOTE: BizVoice® has featured technology/innovation stories throughout its 18-year history. Look for these flashbacks each Thursday. Here is a 2012 favorite.

Speaking with those who’ve risen with the tide of Indianapolis-based e-mail/digital marketing juggernaut ExactTarget, a unique picture is painted of CEO Scott Dorsey’s leadership style.

“One of the things I’ve always found so impressive is that he’s an atypical CEO,” asserts director of product management Joanna Milliken, who holds the distinction of being the company’s first official hire in 2001. “When you think of these hotshot CEOs who are very verbose or demanding, (he’s different because) he’s unassuming and has an amazing balance.

“He’s an incredible risk taker, but he’s not rash. He’s compassionate, but he’s not emotional. He can be both very strategic and knows when to jump in and when to be tactical. That’s a combination you don’t often find.”

Dorsey remembers the company’s humble beginnings, striving to emerge at a precarious time for Internet businesses.

“The Internet bubble had burst; money was not flowing into Internet companies,” he conveys. “We were three entrepreneurs with no software experience. The capital-raising process was really difficult. We went down the friends and family route. It was great, but a little unconventional.”

He adds that building software products with no technical background was a challenge, and the trio was fortunate to find strong developers to help with the early generations of the product.

“We really bootstrapped the company; it was thinly capitalized,” Dorsey offers. “Three of us worked without salaries for nearly the first year we were in business. We were incredibly frugal and watched every dollar very carefully. We didn’t have much to work with. That was a good thing though, because we had to be very sales driven, and built a small product – small enough that we could start to sell it and deliver value in many ways.”

Read the full story online.

Learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)


John Green Talks About Authenticity at ExactTarget Connections Conference

Indianapolis resident John Green, most famous for authoring the best-selling book “The Fault in Our Stars” — and a series of notable Crash Course videos about history, among other things — gave the keynote address at ExactTarget’s popular Connections conference yesterday. Other speakers included TV writer/actress Mindy Kaling and rapper/seven-time Grammy winner Will.I.Am.

ExactTarget Partnering With Mentoring Women’s Network to Pass the Torch for Women

ExactTarget employees are making the pledge to Pass the Torch for Women.

Mentoring Women’s Network is holding its Pass the Torch for Women event and luncheon on August 14 at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis. You can sign up online, and be sure to use the discount code INCHAMBER to receive $50 off the all-day ticket.

Your Company Can Support New “Pass the Torch” Campaign for Women

The following is a guest blog from Sunny Bray, corporate events director for the Mentoring Women’s Network Foundation.

Mentoring Women’s Network, a community of empowered women supporting one another personally and professionally through mentoring relationships, is holding their inaugural event, “Pass the Torch for Women Luncheon,”  August 14 at the Ivy Tech Corporate College and Culinary Center.

Pass the Torch for Women is chaired by Traci Dolan of ExactTarget and an executive leadership team including senior representation from women from Angie’s List, Fifth Third Bank, Simon Property Group, First Merchants Bank, and many other companies.

The Pass the Torch for Women event is intended to inspire women to pledge to mentor and help develop one another personally and professionally, in order to create new opportunities and advance women in the workplace. Women are making advancements in the workplace and in business, yet we have much work to do to continue to advance women leaders.

Sponsoring this event provides your company with positive visibility and association with a well-regarded national organization. Sponsorship also creates access for your female employees to year-round programs and resources aimed at leadership development, connections and social responsibility.

More than 475 women of the greater Indianapolis business, medical and civic communities will attend the 2014 Pass the Torch for Women Event. Your participation in the Pass the Torch for Women Event affords you networking opportunities and additional benefits.

If you’re interested in supporting this program, contact me at [email protected] or (317) 575-4077.

Chamber Presents Top Honors With Annual Business Celebration, Awards

The CEO of a marketing software giant, two state legislators who authored the right-to-work legislation and an Indianapolis community which hosted Super Bowl XLVI and is experiencing ongoing infrastructure improvements and economic growth were honored by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce this evening at the organization’s 23rd Annual Awards Dinner.

A crowd of approximately 1,400 business, civic and political leaders attended the event at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. Famed journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein delivered the keynote speech. The awards dinner was presented in partnership with Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield.

The 2012 Indiana Chamber honorees are: Business Leader of the Year Scott Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Indianapolis-based ExactTarget; Government Leaders of the Year Rep. Jerry Torr and Sen. Carlin Yoder; and Indianapolis as Community of the Year.

Business Leader of the Year: Scott Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of ExactTarget, Indianapolis — "Scott Dorsey and ExactTarget are a shining example of Indiana’s growing technology community and what this state has to offer," says Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. "Scott’s humble leadership style and business acumen, along with the desire to foster his employees and the local community, has made the company what it is today."

Though marketing software company ExactTarget is now widely known, it began like any other technology startup – with hard work and support from family and friends – when Dorsey, his brother-in-law Chris Baggott and another partner, Peter McCormick, launched the company in 2000.

"The Internet bubble had burst; money was not flowing into Internet companies," Dorsey contends. "We were three entrepreneurs with no software experience. The capital raising process was really difficult. We went down the friends and family route. It was great, but a little unconventional."

While Dorsey recalls that the early years of the company were "bootstrapped," with the three founders working without salaries for most of the first year in business, ExactTarget has grown to over 1,300 employees in five countries, with just under 1,000 employees in Indiana alone.

"How do you build and manage a global business? That’s a big challenge, especially when you move into markets that are non-English speaking, like we have in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Managing life as a public company is very different too (the company launched an initial public offering in March), but exciting. The expectations and pressures of Wall Street are very different — and very time consuming — to communicate and build relationships with all those key constituents," Dorsey offers.

Dorsey grew up in Naperville, Illinois, and graduated from Indiana University with a degree in marketing before earning an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He also has worked in various sales positions for Divine, Inc.; Metro; and Steelcase, Inc.

Family ties brought ExactTarget’s headquarters to Indianapolis, but Dorsey admits that the Circle City has proven itself as the right place to be for a growing technology company.

"The support we received from the tech community was extraordinary. As we’ve grown, Indianapolis has become a big competitive advantage for us: the low cost of operation, amazing support from the city and state, great universities we’re able to recruit from and a very loyal employee base with good values and a great work ethic," Dorsey declares.

To give back to the local community, Dorsey and his team created a grassroots organization, ExactImpact (focused on assisting area charities), and the newly-established ExactTarget Foundation.

Dorsey also serves on the board of directors for TechPoint, Indiana Sports Corporation and the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the School of Informatics at Indiana University. He also served as chair for the marketing and communications division for the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee.

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ExactTarget Provides an Overseas Lesson About Consumer Love Lost

The following is an excerpt from the ExactTarget blog, in which Kyle Lacy relays analysis about why consumers in the United Kingdom have ended their online relationships with some businesses. Perhaps it can help you objectively think about how you engage your customers — or potential customers — online.

I can remember that fateful day in the Spring of 1998. Mrs. Cash’s sixth grade class had been released for the day and kids were scurrying across the schoolyard. Everyone except for me. I was shocked and petrified reading the heart shaped note from Sally, my sixth grade girlfriend.

Dear Kyle, We are breaking up. -Sally

It couldn’t be! Sally and I were going to be married. I had given her all the signals. I had showered her with compliments (messaging) and constant hugs (email). How could this have happened?

Like my sixth grade self, brands are experiencing break-ups from consumers who they “thought” they understood. Each time the consumer signs up to receive an email, Likes the brand on Facebook, or follows on Twitter, it signals the start of a beautiful relationship. The consumer is interested and “might” want a relationship.

The consumer has certain expectations and those expectations should be met with enthusiasm. They should be understood. Sally had been interested in me. I noticed and then smothered her.

As many of you know, ExactTarget is a global company with offices all over the world. We pride ourselves in our ability to understand the thought-process of the consumer. We wanted to get a better understanding of what consumers in the UK think of instances where they engaged with a company but later terminated the relationship.

What caused the consumers to lose interest? Here are a portion of the findings:

  • 46% have unsubscribed from email because they felt bombarded with messaging
  • 36% have unliked a brand on Facebook because they felt bombarded
  • 26% have unfollowed a brand on Twitter because they became disinterested in the content
  • 23% unfollow because they feel bombarded
  • 34% of active users in the UK follow a brand on Twitter

Many relationships end at some point. For the most part, consumers’ reasons for leaving a relationship is based around a brands inability to deliver on expectations. The brand did not honor permissions and bombarded the consumer with messaging.

One this is certain: the consumer-brand relationship will continue to grow and develop in the years to come. As a marketer, it’s your job to make that relationship work with clear expectations and personalized content.

ExactTarget Expands Across the Atlantic

Indiana-based ExactTarget, an Indiana Chamber member, will expand its global outreach by opening an office in Europe. The Indy Star reports:

Indianapolis-based ExactTarget is launching a new international division in London after acquiring Keymail Marketing, which uses the e-mail service for a growing number of European clients.

ExactTarget bought the four-year-old company to support the international needs of its customers and expand offerings to other marketers in the United Kingdom. No purchase price was disclosed.

ExactTarget co-founder Peter McCormick will lead the company’s international operation from London, as general manager of ExactTarget Global. McCormick, along with a team of sales, services and technical experts, began servicing international clients from the London operation today.

Scott Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of ExactTarget, said the acquisition of Keymail Marketing is "a key component of our aggressive global expansion plan and provides tremendous opportunity to penetrate the UK and European market.”

More than 70 European clients previously served by Keymail Marketing will now be served directly by ExactTarget, including: Reed Exhibitions, Aurora Fashions, Aegon, Value Retail, British Standards Institute, Gulf Air (Bahrain), Carrier International (France), UKTI (Belgium), Utimaco (Germany) and QlikTech (Sweden).

Not All Bad News: E-mail Marketer Turns in Major Profit Jump

If you’re not using ExactTarget for your mass communication efforts, you might be in the minority. The Hoosier e-mail marketing company saw a 50% jump in revenues in 2008. The Indy Star reports:

ExactTarget, the Indianapolis-based e-mail and marketing specialist, announced today it posted record-setting annual performance in 2008, boosting revenue by more than 50 percent and adding more than 1,000 new direct clients.

Scott Dorsey, chief executive officer, said in a news release that the nearly 400-employee company has had 12 consecutive quarters of profitability.

The company earned $48 million in revenue in 2007, with net income of $2.1 million. It is privately held but filed paperwork in 2007 to go public, hoping for a listing on the NASDAQ.

That is pending.

New customers who use the service include Advance Auto Parts, and Trip Advisor.

ExactTarget distributed 13.5 billion permission-based e-mails, but its impact wasn’t limited to cyberspace.

ExactTarget, which is headquartered in Monument Circle, opened a second site in Indianapolis last year — a 50,000-square-foot product development center in the Gibson building.

We wish congrats and continued success to ExactTarget, an Indiana Chamber member.